Located off the northwest point of the Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea in Indonesia is Raja Ampat, an archipelago full of diverse habitats. The name literally means “Four Kings” and is a great destination for adventure travelers who want to get off-the-beaten path and explore a location with more fish, coral, and invertebrate species than anywhere on the planet.
To experience Raja Ampat, travelers can catch a connecting flight from Jakarta or Bali to Sorong. While Sorong is not actually in Raja Ampat, most Raja Ampat resorts pick up their guests here and transport them to the facilities. If you plan on scuba diving, liveaboard dive boats pick up guests in Sorong and motor them to the dive areas. While Raja Ampat is not typically a tourist destination, it should be as there is a lot do in terms of exploring the waters and marine life, from kayaking and snorkeling to diving and beach combing.
I got the chance to speak with Burt Jones, who has spent the last three years in Raja Ampat doing photography diving tours for Secret Sea Visions and consulting for Conservation International. He explained to me how, while Raja Ampat is full of life and beauty, it is also in need of help, especially because not a lot of people have heard of it.
“If we, as a people, can save any place on the planet, Raja should be high on the priority list,” he explains. “It has the highest marine biodiversity of any tropical reef system on the planet, but fewer than 8,000 people visit Raja Ampat yearly. Part of our job [at CI] is to promote tourism within the region so that it will be considered as a viable local income resource. Most Raja Ampat villages profit very little from their land’s natural resources: timber, fishing or mineral wealth. And, exploiting these resources damages the environment while sustainable marine tourism promotes environmental protection and directly benefits local people through jobs. In our books, we explain local customs and encourage traveling divers to stop by receptive villages where casual contact can enrich both hosts and visitors.”
For more information on diving in Raja Ampat or taking a tour with Secret Sea Visions, click here. And, to get a better idea of just how beautiful Raja Ampat really is, check out the gallery below.